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First UNHCR emergency aid flight arrives in Benin

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© UNHCR/H.M. Gologo

The first flight of a UNHCR emergency airlift to Benin landed in Cotonou late last month. The UNHCR-chartered McDonnell Douglas DC-10 left Liege in Belgium on 27 October carrying 1500 tents from the agency’s emergency stockpile in Copenhagen. The tents will provide urgently needed shelter for victims of the country’s catastrophic flooding.

A UNHCR emergency logistician deployed to Benin reported that the three-engine cargo jet had been unloaded on the tarmac at Cotonou’s Cadjehoun airport. The landing of a second flight carrying a further 1500 tents arrived on 29 October.

UNHCR tents, which are part of the overall UN humanitarian response to floods in Benin, are quickly being sent to those parts of Benin where waters are receding and there are possibilities to erect them. Benin authorities and Caritas Benin are coordinating the distribution of shelter and humanitarian assistance to an estimated 680,000 people affected by the floods in this West African nation.

UNHCR's regular work in Benin is geared towards providing protection and assistance to 7,300 mostly Togolese refugees and asylum-seekers. This group is located in the south of the country and some have been affected by the floods. UNHCR is in contact with these refugees to assess the extent to which they are affected and to ensure that they are included in the national response mechanism.

Due to the severity of the current flooding UNHCR has been called upon to help with the emergency shelter needs of some of the homeless people, particularly in southern parts of the country where it has a presence. UNHCR has already been providing tents, mosquito nets and blankets from its limited stockpiles in the region.

"With more than 3,000 tents, 15,000 people will get decent temporary shelter close to their flood-ravaged homes. This will allow them to start repairs while they wait for the national rehabilitation effort to start", says Angèle Dikongué-Atangana, UNHCR’s Representative in Benin. "As a priority, the first to receive tents will be those who have been left homeless and who are presently squatting along the roads with no alternative accommodation. These people are particularly vulnerable and at risk."

UNHCR remains concerned about the rising number of people who are being affected by the floods. Seasonal heavy rains have been hitting West Africa for several months and normally last until November. This year’s torrential rains go well beyond normal flooding for Benin. Fifty-five out of the country's 77 districts are affected. Weather forecasts show no signs of rain letting up yet.